The story of Green Acre itself is intensely interesting. The beautiful property the rolling meadows, the dear wide-verandahed Inn and, now, all the cottages surrounding it, together with the Tea House at the entrance leading from the highway and, farther down the road, the gracious Fellowship House - rises above the Piscataque River, the River of Light. And it was originally owned by Miss Sarah J. Farmer who was present at the Chicago Exposition in 1893 when, as we all know, the first mention of the Bahá’í Revelation was made at the Congress of Religions. Miss Farmer became deeply interested in this matter of comparative religions and from that time was inspired to establish a summer school on this property of hers which became later our beloved Green Acre. In the summer of 1904 the brilliant and deeply loved Persian teacher, Abu’l Fadl, taught there and, of course, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was there for some time during the summer of 1912. But before this, before the property became definitely Bahá’í property, there had been a good deal of contention and difficulty. Miss Farmer, after a few years spent in listening to the various speakers she brought to her summer school, realized that what the world longed for and what all peoples needed was One Universal Faith - and the Bahá’í Revelation was the only answer to this problem. So, radiantly and with great certainty, she became a Bahá’í. And this was all very well until she announced that she had made her will leaving her property to the Bahá’ís. Then her family rose in outrage and fury. They demanded that she change her will in their favor. She refused. At which they declared her insane and clapped her into an insane asylum. When the Bahá’ís heard of this, there was great consternation and horror and grief. That such a dreadful thing could happen to this great and wonderful woman was simply past all belief. But it had happened and something, certainly, must be done about it. They tried to have her released but her family had consigned her, and only her family could release her, and this they refused to do. Then, an appeal was made to have Miss Farmer examined by atieniate to establish her sanity but this, too, could not be done. Other attempts were made - but there was no step that was not balked at by the Farmer family. Finally, in desperation, three Bahá’ís (Harlan Ober and Montfort Mills were two of them) engineered a most dramatic rescue involving a ladder that took them over the high wall surrounding the insane asylum where Miss Farmer was incarcerated and then another tall ladder leading to her room. She had been told what to expect and she was waiting to be carried down and away. In the Ober home, Grace also was waiting for the return of the rescuers and the rescued. In the dark hours of the early morning they all arrived and there was great rejoicing. Eventually, of course, there was great hubbub and fury raised by the Farmer family and finally, they dragged the Bahá’ís into court to have the matter legally settled. The case was brought by John Mitchell who was a most brilliant lawyer and who, at that point, had never lost a case. The Bahá’ís were represented by Montfort Mills, and the Bahá’ís won. They won the freedom and safety of their radiant and devoted sister Sarah Farmer and they won Green Acre.
(Reginald Grant Barrow, Mother’s Stories: Stories of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Early Believers told by Muriel Ives Barrow Newhall to her son, p. 26-27)
Sarah Farmer had a vision of Green Acre as a peaceful and beautiful place where people could study all the various religions in order to create a more spiritual world. In 1894, she dedicated Green Acre to the ideals of peace and religious unity, invited speakers of various persuasions, and encouraged her guests to listen without prejudice. Financial difficulties almost brought her dream to collapse, and because her health was failing, she went on a cruise in January 1900. While on the ship, she met two friends who are on their way to visit ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Sarah cabled ahead and asked ‘Abdu’l-Bahá if she could join her friends. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said yes. Sarah’s time with the Master created a powerful bond that would affect the futures of both her and Green Acre. When she returned, the courses took on a much more Bahá’í–like flavor and some felt that this was a betrayal of the original ideal. This, and her worsening financial burden caused her health to deteriorate even more. But the coming of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá quickly changed things. While He was there, He said, “This is hallowed ground, made so by your vision and sacrifice. Always remember, this is hallowed ground, which I am pointing out to you.”
(Earl Redman, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 166)
‘Abdu’l-Bahá took a carriage ride to the top of Monsalvat, a part of the Green Acre property. After walking around and talking alone with Sarah Farmer, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá returned to the others, and, waving His arms, announced, “This is where the first Bahá’í university will be built”. Then He pointed to the center of the area and He told those around Him that the second American house of worship, a great Mashriqu’l Adhkar would be built and that the whole hill would be covered with institutions of learning, science, and religion and to impress us with the importance of the center, He said “Already it has been created, and was not a prophecy alone and the Mashriqu’l Adhkar hung low over the place.”
(Earl Redman, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 166-167)